APRIL 2003
Paschaltide
vol 14, no. 24

Saint Thomas Aquinas


The Angelic Doctor

    The twenty-fourth Doctor in this chronological series on the Doctors of the Church was a man who was regarded as stupid - dubbed the "dumb ox" he became the most brilliant scholar in the history of the Church. Few saints were more revered than this learned Dominican who contributed so much to Holy Mother Church in writings and songs. He is best known for the great tome on theology "Summa Theologica," which incorporates three parts covering the entire teaching of the Church in regards Faith and Morals. He also penned the awe-inspiring Benediction hymns of "O Salutaris Hostia" and "Tantum Ergo." He is known as the "Angelic Doctor." He was Saint Thomas Aquinas.

    The great Saint Thomas was born of noble parents at Aquino near Naples in Italy, in 1225; his century was replete with great names and Christian works, yet he dominates it by the power of his thought and the perfection of his works. In his childhood he was the provider for the poor of the neighborhood during a famine; his father, meeting him in a corridor with the food he had succeeded in taking from the kitchen, asked him what he had under his cloak; he opened it and fresh roses fell on the ground. The nobleman embraced his son and amid his tears, gave him permission to follow thereafter all inspirations of his charity.

    The young student, like the holy man Job, made a pact with his eyes and forbade them to see anything which might favor in his heart any desires for a life of ease. At the University of Naples he led a retired life of study and prayer, and continued his charities, giving all he had which was superfluous. He was recognized already by his professors as a genius, but it was Saint Albert the Great who later said of his disciple whom some called “the mute ox”, that “some day the lowing of this ox will resound throughout the entire world.”

    At the age of nineteen he received the Dominican habit at Naples. His family opposed this choice, and he was set upon by his brothers on his way to Paris. They attempted in vain to remove his holy habit, but he was taken in custody and obliged to suffer a two years’ captivity in their castle of Rocca Secca. Neither the caresses of his mother and sisters, nor the threats and stratagems of his brothers, could shake him in his vocation. His older sister was won over by him and renounced a brilliant marriage to embrace religious life; later she was Abbess of her convent in Capua.

    While Saint Thomas was in confinement at Rocca Secca, his brothers endeavored to entrap him into sin, but the attempt only ended in the triumph of his purity. Snatching from the hearth a burning coal, the Saint drove from his chamber the courtesan whom they had concealed there. Then marking a cross upon the wall, he knelt down to pray. Immediately, while he was rapt in ecstasy, an Angel girded him with a cord, in token of the gift of perpetual chastity which God had given him. The pain caused by the girdle was so sharp that Saint Thomas uttered a piercing cry, which brought his guards into the room. But he never related this grace to anyone save Father Raynald, his confessor, a short time before his death. Thus originated the Confraternity of the Angelic Warfare, for the preservation of the virtue of chastity. Thomas, also an expert chemistry scholor, was freed to continue his studies.

    Saint Thomas went to Cologne to study under St. Albert the Great, and afterwards was sent with him to Paris by Pope Innocent IV, where for several years he taught philosophy and theology. The Church has ever venerated his numerous writings as a treasure of sacred doctrine; in naming him the Angelic Doctor she has indicated that his science is more divine than human. The rarest gifts of intellect were combined in him with the most tender piety. Prayer, he said, had taught him more than study. His singular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament shines forth in the Office and hymns which he composed for the feast of Corpus Christi. To the words miraculously uttered by a crucifix at Naples, “Well hast thou written concerning Me, Thomas. What shall I give thee as a reward?” he replied, “No other reward except Thyself, O Lord.” Saint Thomas was loved for his unfailing gentleness and his readiness to lend his services or great lights to all who sought them.

    He became such a counselor to the papacy that Pope Gregory X personally invited him to participate in the General Council of Lyons in 1274, but the Dominican scholar died on his way there at Fossa Nuova near Terracina, Italy on March 7, 1274. He was only 49 when he was called home to Heaven and exactly 49 years later he was canonized by Pope John XXII. Thomas was officially declared a "Doctor of the Church" in 1567 by Pope Saint Pius V and his feast day had always been celebrated on March 7th


For those truly interested in theology, who are confused by the modern theologians who have led so many astray, we strongly recommend thee work by the Angelic Doctor of the Church Saint Thomas Aquinas: his masterful Summa Theologica


Note: [editor's bold, brackets and italicized for emphasis] Some of the sources taken from: Dictionary of Saints, John J. Delaney (Doubleday); Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894; Saints of the Roman Calendar, Enzo Lodi).

For the chronological list of the Doctors of the Church to date, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2003doc.htm Archives.


      Doctors of the Church Series